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Wireless iDropper

Contrary to what you may have read about me, I’m notoriously cheap. Don’t misunderstand: I’ll splurge on the occasional $15 haircut when circumstances warrant. But I HATE to pay for cell phones. This position of course has historically obligated me to sign up for 2-year commitments so that I could get the “free” phone.

Committing to these contracts is like getting engaged when you don’t really know the person. It’s like walking into the store, shaking hands with the salesperson, telling them I need wireless service, and then hopping on the express train to second base. That doesn’t happen. Except maybe in certain types of movies, I guess. (Not that I would know. People have told me, and there was that one episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler accidentally got a free adult channel on their cable, so they never turned it off. As with everything in life, TV sitcoms are one of my most reliable sources of information and ideas.)

Anyway, the last phone I had was a Nokia 6085. It was quite literally the worst phone I have ever owned. By far. (I only wish I could have a cell phone like the red plastic Porsche 924S phone I had as a teenager. Now THAT was a good phone.) At the time, I had no idea my Nokia phone was so horribly bad. I thought it was just the reception in my house. Finally, a dear friend, a network admin guy, had the courage to step up and tell me that I was dropping literally like, every fifth word. (Amazingly, the information in my spoken sentences is so densely packed that we were still able to communicate.)

These “businesses” who provide such “services” call themselves wireless “carriers.” I suspect they mean that in one sense that Merriam-Webster defines it:

7 a : an electromagnetic wave or alternating current whose modulations are used as communications signals (as in radio, telephonic, or telegraphic transmissions)

b : a telecommunication company.

However, I find them to be more like:

5 a : a bearer and transmitter of a causative agent of an infectious disease; especially : one who carries the causative agent of a disease symptomatically but is asymptomatic or immune to it.

You know, like a carrier of contagion.

Aside: Does it bother anyone else that my go-to source of all things definey, M-W online, seems to flagrantly ignore the spacing rules for punctuation, especially colons (:), that have applied to all the rest of us since middle school? I mean, I appreciate a little space around my colon as much as the next guy. Especially after a heavy meal. But if I had turned in a paper with that kind of whacked-out spacing in school, I would have found myself with knuckles reddened by a ruler, sitting on an overturned bucket, alone in the dark storage closet in our English classroom, until I “learned my lesson.” Not that that ever happened to me. What’s the Internet equivalent of that? But I digress…

(Most of) my calls aren’t that particularly hot. Nevertheless, my wireless “carrier” was dropping almost every call as though it were. Hot, I mean.

Anyway, after that ear-opening conversation with my friend, it was time. We went to our wireless carrier’s “store,” and this time I finally shelled out good money for an iPhone. (Well, not my money. I have a wealthy benefactor who sometimes offers me such kindnesses. Occasionally, I take them up on it. As in this case.) By the way, before you mock me for trading “up” to an iPhone, notorious for dropping calls when you touch the antenna on its side, this was not an iPhone 4. It’s the older model. And so far, so good.

And oh, yeah… We signed a 2-year contract.

Do you have any cell phone horror stories? What kind of phone do you have now? Do you love it or hate it? Have you ever told a friend their phone was terrible? What was your favorite phone when you were a teenager?

Nintendo and the Wheel of God (2 of 2)

(continued from Wednesday’s post)

“I…I…I…CAN’T!” It was just too much for Kenny’s little Asperger-trending social fears to overcome. He just didn’t have it in him to go up in front of all those people. I was sad. But I also totally understood.

Our dear friend Allyson was right behind us, and had witnessed our entire exchange. “Send Preston!” she offered. “You’ll go! Won’t you, buddy?”

“YEAH!”

I handed our five-year-old his big brother’s ticket, and he bolted full-tilt for the aisle, waving his treasure over his head. He charged the stage and proudly handed it over. The number was verified, and we were off.

Pastor Scott said, “Come spin the wheel, buddy!”

Like one of those testosterone-high guys spinning The Price Is Right showcase wheel, little Preston cranked that sucker as hard as he could. The crowd of thousands fell so silent, we could actually hear the rapid-fire clack-clack-clack-clack-clack of the snapping pointer from our seats, even though we were probably 200 feet from the stage.

Slower. Slower. Ever slower. Clack…clack…clack….clack….clack……clack……clack………CLACK! And something magic happened: Smack dead-center on the GameCube.

The sound was like a collective gasp, a punch in the stomach, as everyone in the crowd drew in their breath at once, just like when the tide sucks away every drop of water in the instant before the tsunami crashes the beach. A deafening, simultaneous ROAR swept over us all. I screamed perhaps louder than I ever have before. It felt like I had won a Nintendo GameCube!

The moments which followed were a surreal blur. Incredible euphoria. And Kenny felt almost instant despair at his profound loss: “It was supposed to be MEEEEEEE!”

I tried to console him: “Aw, Kenny… Even if you had gone up there, that still doesn’t mean your spin would have landed on the GameCube. Besides, it’s going home with us to our house! It’s not like you’re never going to get to play it.” Astoundingly, my flawless logic seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect.

Meanwhile, Kendra was trying to convince Preston that it just wouldn’t be right for him to keep his prize, since she worked for the church, and people would think for sure it was rigged. But he was having none of it. Besides, Pastor Scott insisted it would be a greater tragedy to take it away from him. We all knew the truth: Preston had won it fair and square.

That GameCube has quite a few miles on it now, but literally every time they take it out of the closet to play it, when I see it, it transports me again to that flashing, brilliant moment, which will probably be one of the happiest memories of Preston’s life, and by extension, mine.

Have you ever won anything? What’s the greatest prize you’ve received? Why does it seem like people always spin those wheels so flippin’ hard?!?

Nintendo and the Wheel of God (1 of 2)

We have a local theme park curiously gifted at overpricing concessions and keeping rides from the 70’s on eternal life support. As a child, I remember when this park obtained the Cherry Blossom Special, a rusty metal roller coaster reaching a dizzying twenty feet high. A fresh coat of paint, some axle grease and WD-40, and it was as good as new. Better, even. I also remember when, in my teens, the Cherry Blossom Special, faded and falling into squeaky disrepair, was re-christened as the Orange Blossom Special. (True story.) Finally, when it seemed its dilapidated condition could seemingly no longer be hidden, it was moved inside a building that was pitch black inside and rebranded as a runaway mine train. (Also true.)

But all of that only sets the scene for our story. The real action takes place at LifeStock, an annual event hosted by our church. (Many people—most of whom have never attended our church—brand it a “megachurch.” Our church leaders, however, prefer to call us a “micro” church with a “mega” mission.) Every summer at LifeStock, literally thousands of people from all over the city show up to enjoy discounted tickets, lines stretching halfway to the moon, and dementia-inducing heat. (That’s just one of the myriad ways that we Christians express our devotion to God’s only Son and our Dear Savior.)

One major draw of these events—besides sweaty hordes of believers, of course—is always the worship music. Extraordinary musicians from literally all over the country swarm a huge stage facing a large hillside. In 2006, before the music started, our (quite literally) world-famous kids’ program would stage a fun show. In 2006, they had a gaming portion of the show where they brought kids up on stage and let them do different things to win prizes.

The capstone event was a Wheel of Fortune-type upright roulette wheel with prizes listed on it. They call your ticket number, you come up and spin the wheel. Whatever it lands on, you win. While it was our good friend JT who actually engineered and built this spectacular wheel, my magnificent wife was one of the key coordinators of the actual program in progress. Our kids pastor was the emcee and stage presence, and Kendra served double-duty as Vanna White and chief kid wrangler of the mouth-breathers once they were on stage.

The prizes were all sorts of the things kids drool over: Dolls and stickers, candy and water pistols. But everybody there knew the pièce de résistance was the Nintendo GameCube. Kendra knew that’s what every kid wanted, although she herself despises anything to do with video games. I myself had years earlier been coerced to surrender my Nintendo Entertainment System and staggering two games to a raffle held at the school where she taught. This was not because I was such a generous person eager to see youngsters strive to better themselves, but because she wanted it out of our house. (Fortunately, I’m not bitter.) But every kid at LifeStock knew that was the brass ring they were grasping for.

Kendra was on stage, and I was in the audience with our two boys, suffocating in the sweltering heat. Pastor Scott called the next number. Every little head in the massive crowd drooped simultaneously, frantically checking it against their tickets. Kenny, our oldest, was the first head to pop up. He held his ticket out to me, trembling. It was his number. I double-checked… Sure enough. “Go on!” I told him cheerfully. “Get up there!”

Has your number ever been called? What did you do? What do you think is gonna happen? Plot twists and an unexpected outcome. Come back for our conclusion this Friday.

OS Casanova

I prefer Windows. Not because it’s beautiful, or even because it’s theoretically cheaper than Apple. But because I’m not a hippie. Sure, I have to download updates every couple of days. Sure, I have to download and correctly install my own drivers. Of course I have to purchase, install, maintain, update, and keep my antivirus software current. But I’m okay with that. Because I’m an adult. I accept my responsibilities. This is my lot in life. My dishes don’t wash themselves. Why should my computer have such a superiority complex? It’s just a machine, for God’s sake. The Terminator movies are right-on. If we ascribe too much power and autonomy to our machines, eventually they won’t need us anymore, unless it’s as their enslaved power source. And I for one DO NOT welcome our stylish new personal computer overlords. Yes, it’s controlling my destiny, but look how BEAUTIFUL it is! My PC may very well be the Forrest Gump of efficiency appliances, but at least I don’t have to worry that it has a better job than me and is secretly making love to my wife behind my back. (And much more satisfyingly, at that.) I don’t WANT my computer to be more handsome (and useful) than I am. Go ahead and HAVE your ultracore Mac with the cinema display. My wife and I will invite your wife and your iMac over to play Canasta at our house on Thursdays while you work at your third job at the Home Depot.
I hate Apple. For all their smugness and beauty and design and slick, gorgeous user interfaces. They remind of the gorgeous girlfriends that you see on the cover of magazines. It’s like the beautiful babe in the bikini your friend emails you and you have to scroll way down to see the real story: no matter how hot you think she is, there’s some guy somewhere who’s tired of putting up with her $h!t. So true. My wife says the same thing about me
Wanna start your own genocide? There’s an app for that.

I prefer Microsoft Windows. Not because it’s beautiful. (It’s not.) Nor even because horsepower- and functionality-wise, it’s (theoretically) cheaper than a comparable Apple system. My Apple friends (and they are legion) insist that I simply don’t “get” the Mac. Now, I have used plenty of Macs, and when I insist that I “get” them just fine, thank you, my friends attempt to belittle me for lacking any sense of style. Um…clearly that’s not in dispute. (One need look no further than my $15 haircut to become acquainted with my position on style.)

The main reason I like Windows is that I’m not a hippie. Sure, I have to download updates every couple of days. Sure, I have to download and correctly install my own drivers. Of course I have to purchase, install, maintain, update, and keep my antivirus software current. But I’m okay with all that. Why? Because I’m an adult. I accept my responsibilities. This is my lot in life. My dishes don’t wash themselves. Why should my computer have such a superiority complex? It’s just a machine, for God’s sake.

The Matrix and Terminator series are right on. If we ascribe too much power and autonomy to our machines, eventually they won’t need us anymore, unless it’s as the bad guys in their war or as an enslaved power source. I for one DO NOT welcome our stylish new personal computer overlords.

“Sure, it’s controlling my destiny, but look how ADORABLE it is! I’m happy to serve evil machines—just as long as they’re beautiful.” (SMILES)

My sad PC may very well be the Forrest Gump of efficiency appliances, but at least I don’t worry that it has a better job than I do, that it gets the best tables at restaurants, and that it’s having an affair with my wife behind my back. (And satisfying her much better than I ever did, at that.) I don’t WANT my computer to be more handsome (and useful) than I am. You can go ahead and HAVE your ultra-core Mac-whatever Pro with the widescreen HD LED Cinema display. (Now with free shipping! What a bargain!) My wife and I will invite your wife and your iMac over to play Canasta at our house on Thursdays while you work at your third job at the Home Depot. Wanna spend your last 99 cents? Yep, there’s an app for that.

Windows doesn’t entice me every 15 minutes with another application or piece of hardware that I just can’t live without. I just get on with it and do my work. Which I will start again in a few minutes…just as soon as this reboot finishes.

Are you Mac zealot? Or a Windows Luddite like me? (Note to Linux “users”: We know you don’t really exist, like the winged unicorn ridden by the Tooth Fairy, and we certainly know you’re not on the Internet, so please don’t bother commenting.)

Euclid in the Dishwasher

You really should see me load a dishwasher. Certainly it is a thing of beauty. Not unlike a carefully choreographed piece of modern performance art. I can fit a remarkable amount of dishes into a standard-issue dishwasher. I can feel my connection to the ancient Greeks with their mastery of mathematics and engineering, as I configure just one more plate, just one more spoon, with precision, cunning, craft, and (dare I say it?) yes, even creative expression.

I’m convinced that my skill was borne not as a clear symptom of clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder, as you might suggest, rather from a childhood of hearing, “You’ve gotta get that in there. We’re not gonna run that thing more than once. Do you have any idea how much water costs?”

The very existence of the question implies that it must have been some fabulous amount. As a child, I pictured water sheiks rolling around in their extravagant palaces made of ice, sloshing ankle deep with water throughout. Sleeping on waterbeds the size of a moonbounce, enough for their entire harem to lounge about lazily. (No doubt that would explain the bikinis which also occur within my imagination.)

Nevertheless, it’s like a complicated puzzle. I’ve had friends tell me, “You know, that stuff’s not really getting clean when you pack so much in.” Huns. Savages. Heathens. It’s already clean when I put it into my fantastical splash-on-hot-soapy-water machine. Besides, you simply don’t get it. I’m not just piling it in there willy-nilly. Each placement is carefully considered and calculated, positioning each unique piece with an eye for turning its “dirty” surface in a direction where optimal splashage can occur. Neanderthals.

Ironically, the same discipline of parenting that made me into this monster will not pass into the next generation. Trust my kids with loading the dishwasher? Even if they could understand why I do it the way I do, there’s no way I could sufficiently explain it to them. Are you crazy? Nobody is even allowed to touch this dishwasher except Daddy. And everybody in our house knows it.

What’s your relationship with YOUR dishwasher like? What about your other appliances? What’s a radical skill you’ve cultivated over time that no one else seems to appreciate?

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